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College Admissions Counselor on Campus Culture: Who Are Your Peeps?

Mark Montgomery, college admissions expert and professional educational consultant, speaks from the campus of Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, about the importance of finding a college whose culture will fit with you. When visiting campuses, pay attention to what kind of people make up the student body and ask yourself, “Is this my crowd?”

TRANSCRIPT:

Right now I’m on the campus of Colgate University in Hamilton, New York. This is a liberal arts college, even thought it says it’s a university, it’s primarily a liberal arts college. It has a few master’s degrees that it offers. It’s in a beautiful area, about 30 or 40 miles from Syracuse, rural area but a small town. So it’s a fairly bustling small town with the pizza joint and the bars and the cafe and the Dunkin’ Donuts and everything you need.

But what I find interesting in visiting colleges is how different the students can seem, just even by appearance. If you walk around the campus and look with a critical eye about what the kids are wearing, what they’re saying, what they’re doing, you can discern a difference. So I always have to ask my students, “So who are your friends?” And “What are the kinds of people you want to hang out with on a day-to-day basis?” So I was recently at Vassar, and Vassar definitely gives off this very liberal vibe, it’s not necessarily in the way people dress, but it’s certainly a political viewpoint that kind of pervades the student body there. And then at Bard College, if you are walking around there, you see kids who are a little more informal, a little bit more — they’re definitely liberal but they’re much more laid back and much less concerned about what people think. Here at Colgate, you just see a lot more kids in designer clothing. I saw a ton of Hilfiger, for example, guys in seersucker shorts and women in nice little dresses. A little but more dressed up, I guess you’d say. Slightly more conservative, at least in appearance.

Again, I’m making some generalizations about a student body by looking at different people. But I think it’s helpful to really think for yourself, who are my friends? I just ran into one of my former students who is here at Colgate, loving it, absolutely loving it, and I saw him on the rugby field, it was kind of a coincidence. So I asked him, I said, “So who among your friend would be unhappy here?” And I had a shortcut because this is a student I’ve known since he was in middle school, and I know a lot of his friends, and so I asked him, “So who among your friends would not be happy here?” And he rattled off several names of people that just, they’d be smart, they’d be capable of handling a place like Colgate, certainly have every potential of getting in, but would not be happy here among the students who tend to populate this campus. And that was helpful, because I could identify, because I know the students, I could identify that student personalities that would be less comfortable here.

Now anyone could adapt to anywhere, and some kids are more chameleon-like than others, and you know, in some ways how much does it matter? Well, I don’t know, it’s really up to you, but I think it’s definitely something to think about as you’re choosing a college. Who are my peeps? Who do I want to hang out with? What are the types of people that challenge me, that keep me engaged, the kinds of friends I have and like to hang out with? That’s what you’re going to get when you buy a college, you’re buying a community. So think about that, think long and hard, and then try to find the community that best matches your priorities.

 

Mark Montgomery
Expert Educational Consultant

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